Evolution vs. Intelligent Design discussion

Faith, Empirical Evidence, and Beleif

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I find it slightly disconcerting that minor players in this group seem to have wildly partisan and skewed understandings of the three concepts of this title. There is a difference between belief and faith, as well as a difference between these two and 'proof' by empirical evidence.

I have had some rather frustrating, though enlightening, experience in this group using my own various definitions for things, so I'd like to know how others define them, and hope to posit some sort of attempted solution by debate. What do people know or think about Faith, Proof, and Belief?

message 2: by Robert (last edited Aug 09, 2010 07:29PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Wow. I'm writing a book on the latter two, which are within the realm of reason. Faith is not.

English words are so multivalent that it is very difficult to pin any of the three down out of context, so let me define a context for each one (in some contexts they might well mean the same thing).

In the context of religion, as far as I can tell faith means "belief in the tenets of the religion in the absence of evidence". I would cheerfully modify the word "absence" to include "poor or insufficient" evidence. Christians often consider the New Testament sufficient evidence that several humans died and came back to life through supernatural intervention, even though they reject precisely the same evidence (hearsay in a manuscript document of uncertain etiology) for any number of other implausible events, or for similar claims in modern times sight unseen. When pressed on the lack of consistency and presence of errors that are the hallmark of an unreliable witness, they simply shrug off any criticism and state that they believe that it is true because of their faith. The word is used in this exact context in any number of discussions I have had with Christians and even a few people of other religions, who tend to be less into "faith". They have faith that the Old Testament is literal truth to the last word in Genesis. They have faith that Jesus loves them (in spite of his testy ways towards Gentiles). They have faith that the end times are near. In this context it always means belief in the absence of objective reasons to believe, often belief in the teeth of excellent reasons to disbelieve.

Proof is much easier. In the context of mathematics, proof is the demonstration of the contingent truth of a theorem, given the axioms (assertion, propositions, assumptions) of the theory and the laws of logic and reason.

Note that this definition is completely empty as far as the real world is concerned, because we do not know the correct axioms a priori, so mathematical proofs of contingent truths are at best doubly contingent in their applicability to the real world -- various theorems of plane geometry can be proven from the axioms of plane geometry but are false for the axioms of curved space geometry or vice versa, and there is no guarantee that either one is the "correct" description of space-time or any embedded geometry in the real world. Proof is thus a completely meaningless concept in science, or perhaps it would be better to call it a meaningful concept but one that can never be formally correctly applied. One cannot prove the law of gravity, ever.

Which leads us at last to belief. Belief is a state of partial agreement with a proposition; the proposition in question is usually one that refers to some aspect of the real world, although inference (the mathematics of belief) can be applied to abstract problems as well.

The "best" way to view belief in a given proposition that cannot be proven as a contingent truth in a mathematical system (perhaps because it refers to the real world) is as a real number from zero to one. Zero represents "certainty" that the proposition is false. One represents "certainty" that the proposition is true. All the numbers in between represent various degrees of (dis)belief.

In order for the term "belief" to make sense on this scale, we have to at the very least be able to ordinally rank competing beliefs, handle contingent belief (how belief in proposition A should vary when one's belief in proposition B changes, when A and B are connected in some way), handle consistency (so if A and B are mutually exclusive and contradictory propositions, increasing one's degree of belief in A necessarily causes one to decrease one's degree of belief in B. Finally, one has to have a means of inducing a change, one needs a calculus of belief where experiences are the catalyst of changes in degree of belief in the entire network of competing and supporting propositions associated with the experience.

This latter mechanism is "empirical evidence".

To summarize, then, one begins with a more or less arbitrary set of degrees of belief in a vast network of propositions stated and unstated. As one accumulates experience, one increases one's degree of belief in some of the propositions and decreases one's degree of belief in others. This isn't done on an individual basis -- many propositions are contingent or dependent, so that altering degree of belief in one proposition can cause necessary changes in an entire network of connected beliefs to prevent the entire system of beliefs from becoming inconsistent.

This is, in fact, the axiomatic basis of probability theory, and the theorem describing contingent beliefs is basically Bayes' Theorem. It is also the axiomatic basis of the scientific knowledge, or more properly, all well-founded human knowledge.

Books you might enjoy reading if you like this sort of things include:

Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty
Algebra of Probable Inference
Probability Theory: The Logic of Science

You can also read the online preview of my own book on the subject (entitled Axioms) if you wish. Let me know.

To summarize: We all have various degrees of belief in the propositions of natural science. In general, these beliefs are strongly supported by evidence and gain still more strength from the fact that the entire set of scientific beliefs has been constructed to be mutually consistent in a vast Bayesian network of probable truth. As a consequence, our degree of belief in things like the law of gravity is generally very high, as are beliefs in many propositions that are linked to this proposition as a contingent truth, such as the notion that planets orbit suns in (approximately) elliptical orbits, that gravity played a major role in the formation of the solar system, etc. Our degree of belief in propositions that compete with the theory of gravity -- things move up or down because invisible fairies pull them -- is correspondingly low, as well.

One can never prove that a non-identity proposition concerning the real world is true (proof always requiring axioms that cannot be proven and might be false) and hence we can never achieve the certainty that any well-formed (non-contradictory) proposition concerning the real world is true or false. Practically speaking, this means that belief is the open set (0,1), not the closed set [0,1:]. We can never be certain of anything, although we can get very close.

Faith is basically the promotion of degree of belief in certain propositions concerning the real world in the absence of evidence and without concern for the effects of the promotion on the Bayesian network of related propositions. This is why Richard will never, ever, answer any question concerning his personal worldview. If he did, he could be trapped instantly in a contradiction with reality, and he knows it, because his worldview is based on faith and is inconsistent with many things that he knows perfectly well are true. He must then maintain the "schizophrenia" that is often associated with a person who claims to believe in science, but who also claims to have faith in some assertion, e.g. Jesus is real and was the son of God. The disjunction is often jarring, but they develop internal rose tinted glasses that keep them from having to actually confront the contradiction and acknowledge it, and thereby can maintain their faith.


message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Oh, by the way. I use the phrase "knows are true" not to describe certainty as knowledge is never certain, but to describe that upper range of probable belief where one's degree of belief starts to build up 9's (usually to the point where only a log scale makes sense). So I know that the theory of gravitation is (probably) true, or almost true, because it is basically never violated in experience. That doesn't mean that I am certain or that new evidence wouldn't change my mind, but it is knowledge as solid as anything I know, and I would bet absolutely everything I own that if I hold my cell phone out and let go, it will fall down. So Richard can "know" perfectly well that aspects of his faith contradict existing empirical evidence and the entire network of scientific belief but by refusing to confront this, he can pretend that it really doesn't.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 27, 2010 05:21AM) (new)

Hey, Robert. I meant to get back to you on this, but your posts are so damn long, I had to think, I have other groups, &c. Anyway, I would say that's a pretty good summation. But I think your first point about reason dominating Proof and Belief is the most important.

I myself would call Faith 'backward reason'. Whereas proof and belief divine a conclusion from observation and logic, Faith begins with a conclusion for which it has no explicit proof and works backward (logically) to explain observation. The difference between Faith and Theory here, I suppose, would be that Theory operates on facts, and Faith on pretences (assumptions, premises, and the like).

But I am curious: do you regard Faith as a validation of the speculation of organised religions (that is, Does faith in a religious doctrine make it worth more than something I merely invent right now, such as faith in a three-eyed swine of redemption?). I am sure I know the one-word answer, but you always add quite a lot extra to your posts; I'll anticipate some brilliant elaboration.

message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Only a teeny bit of elaboration, as I have to go advise entering freshmen in five minutes.

First, there is a broader spectrum of cognitive states associated with assigned truth-value-probability to assertions than have been mentioned so far. We have lots of words: hunch, guess, insight, intuition, faith, belief, know, wonder, suspect, and probably many more -- all of these reflect shades and nuances of both the degree of belief assigned to a proposition and the means by which the estimate was obtained.

Personally I'm not sure I agree with your definition of faith above -- I think what you first describe is closer to intuition or insight, the process of "direct" knowledge of some sort of truth, where that knowledge may well be completely defensible in normal terms of reason and evidence but the human mind jumps straight there and (as you say) justifies it a posteriori. A hell of a lot of scientific and mathematical knowledge is obtained this way, in part because it is associated with whole-brain efficiency (our bicameral brains are synergistic and far, far more powerful when they work together effectively than they are when our "sequential reason" interior monologue is too strong and dominates our thought patterns).

"Faith" may well be a miswiring of this same general process, but it is very domain specific. I'm very, very intrigued by the strength of the "faith" response in the human brain, where people will hold onto it in the face of all evidence. I am certain that there are physiological and deep neuropsychological reasons underlying this waiting to be discovered. I think a number of other people are on this same track -- it explains things such as how damn difficult it is to get e.g. NSA to actually search for truth. We are asking her to rewire certain core parts of her brain volitionally, and while it is possible to do this (maybe) it appears to be relatively unlikely for it to occur.

It's probably in some deep sense like asking a smoker to give up cigarettes. In this sense faith in a religion is indeed very different from faith in a three-eyed swine of redemption. The latter doesn't have some sort of seductive brain-chemistry going for it, and so you don't become attached to it. But if you chant psalms to it, join in a powerful and moving human ritual dedicated to it, if you learn to identify the "voice" that is your right brain injecting memes into your left-brain's cognitive stream with it, if you are raised with a swine-meme that structures your entire life, then removing it is like removing cancer -- its tendrils loop through all sorts of good tissue to where it can do as much damage removing it as it does in place.


message 6: by Don (new)

Don (donmilne) | 24 comments This post originated to announce the completion of my play which is a passage by passage mirror of Inherit the Wind. Here is part of a scene where the defense attorney, Nicole Duran (think Ann Coulter) puts the prosecutor Gordon Albert (think All Gore) on the stand.

Dr. Albert, are you ready to testify in opposition to your own case?

Your Honor, my testimony will only make my case stronger. I shall stand for what is right and just and in defense of true science.

Mr. Chambers, please swear in the witness.

(ALBERT steps over to the witness stand and puts his hand on CHAMBERS' Bible.)

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

I do.

Give ‘em hell, Gordy!

(ALBERT calmly and confidently awaits his questioning.)

For the benefit of this court, would I be correct to claim you are an expert on the subject of science, since you have long been involved in the global warming movement and later became well known as a defender of evolution?

It is no secret that I am often called to speak on this subject. I have studied evolution in depth, as much as any layman, and helped educate thousands through my lectures.

Your lectures are well known. Related to this, are you quite familiar with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species?

Oh, yes. I am very familiar with the contents of this great book.

(DURAN crosses to counsel table and picks up a book.)

I am interested to know how familiar you are on the subject of Intelligent Design. (Shows book to ALBERT.)

The last thing I would do is waste my time becoming familiar with the slapdash, retro ideas of that book.

So you have never even opened this book?

Never have, never will.

In other words you come from a base of ignorance to wage a politically correct war against ideas you refuse to even consider? On what basis can you be so certain that the scientific claims put forth by Intelligent Design are incompatible with the teachings of Charles Darwin?

What are you saying?

Let me rephrase. (She opens the book.) We can see here on page twelve that . . .

Objection! Dr. Albert is here as an authority on evolution. Now the lady from Connecticut is using this as a platform to introduce pseudo science nonsense into the record. The court has already ruled this irrelevant. Dr. Albert is an expert on evolution, so the questions should be limited to evolution.

Limit your questions to evolution, Dr. Duran.

(DURAN slaps shut the volume of Intelligent Design.)

So that's how it's going to be. (She tosses the book on the counsel table.) We’ll play with your house rules then, doctor. (She picks up a copy of Origin of Species from the counsel table. DURAN examines the book without opening it.) Very well, for the benefit of the jury, is this the book you are qualified to give expert testimony on?


Good. Would you take the position that this entire book is correct and true?

We’ve had more than a century and a half to show evolution to be true.

Darwin believed that paleontology would prove his theory of evolution, correct?


(Picks up large photograph from counsel table and shows it to ALBERT.)
Do you recognize this picture?

That’s archaeopteryx.

And what is the significance of this fossil?

Creationists would like us to believe that God created the animals on the fifth day. From the geological record, we know this to be utterly false. Life forms have evolved over millions of years and we can see from archaeopteryx the bridge from dinosaurs to birds.

Really? Is that so? (Picks up copy of National Geographic magazine.) And here is another proof of this bridge from dinosaur to bird. (Shows picture to jury.) Is that correct?

It is an artist rendition of what we might expect to see in the fossil record.

Artist’s rendition? That’s an interesting spin. Dr. Albert, a man of your scientific knowledge is surely familiar with this hoax. This so-called fossil is in fact manmade, but was represented as a real fossil to give the scientific community what they wanted, correct?

I don’t recall the details of this story.

Really? You subscribe to National Geographic do you not?


Yet somehow you missed the follow-up article that identified this fossil as a fraud?

I don’t recall.

Isn’t it true that there are fossil factories in China producing fakes that may be accepted by modern scientist as the real thing?

What’s your point, Nicole?

We are well into the second century of paleontology since Darwin. We have thousands more in trained personnel, and millions more in funding to fill out the fossil timeline. We continue to find entirely new species as discontinuous as ever. But tell me, Dr. Albert, where are the intermediates? Where are the missing links?

This is ridiculous. You bring up nit-picky examples and pretend that those carry the day. The geologic record is firm. It is physical proof that evolution happens.

Going back to archaeopteryx; will you concede that modern scientist no longer recognize archaeopteryx as half-bird, half-reptile? That it is all bird? Isn’t it true that cladists have examined the homology of archaeopteryx and actually think modern birds descended from reptiles tens of millions of years later in the fossil record?

So? What’s your point?

The point is that archaeopteryx is trumpeted as proof of evolution and yet your own evolutionists concede that this species died out and no existing birds evolved from it. So, where are the fossils showing the transition from reptiles to birds?
Give it time, Nicole. Give it time. You haven’t proved anything. Not finding something is not proof that it does not exist. The fossil record will be confirmed.

You show great faith, Dr. Albert. But let the record show that for now there is no fossil record of intermediate stages showing evolution of reptiles to birds and the mechanism of transition remains unknown. This lack of evidence in evolution, does it bother you?

Not in the least.

Aren't you the slightest bit curious?


The total lack of intermediates is of no concern to you?

Evolution is an established fact, book closed.

Book closed? Is this the modern state of science today? What happened to the driving curiosity for knowledge?

If I know two plus two is four, I am not curious to know anything different.

message 7: by Nathan (last edited Aug 28, 2010 10:03PM) (new)

Nathan Don,

You suck as an author. You steal lines from Inherit the Wind and then bastardize the concepts of the very play you steal them from. I guess you didn't get the point Inherit the Wind was making when you read it. Next time, write something out of your own brain. Don't just copy the hard work of others, change a few words around, and try to pass it off as your own. Ridiculous and horrible. You shouldn't say it is the mirror of Inherit the Wind, you should say it is the theft and destruction of Inherit the Wind.

message 8: by Dan (last edited Aug 29, 2010 02:24PM) (new)

Dan This play reminds me of Michael Crichton's global warming conspiracy book, State of Fear, where all the global warming "believers" were paper-thin characters who didn't actually understand anything about global warming and comically trumpeted their ignorance so that the book's "heroes" could "prove" them -- and therefore, somehow, all climate science -- wrong. The book was a transparent and juvenile ploy, a poorly written cornucopia of strawman arguments and conspiracy theory hysterics. It read like this:

SCIENTIST: According to global warming theory, it will get so hot in the next few years that all life on Earth will literally burst into flames.

HERO: But I have this scientific paper right here showing that the temperature of the Earth will only increase by five degrees or so, over the next century.

SCIENTIST: Oh how wrong I was! Global warming is a lie! I repent!

Of course, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of science knows that a few degree change in temperature can have drastic consequences, and that a century is a blink of an eye for a 4.5 billion-year-old Earth. But if I write a scene that makes it seem like scientists are warning us of something much more cinematically "dire," then it is easy to "debunk" that claim and make it seem as though I have debunked all of climate science.

This is exactly how this play reads, assuming that this passage is a good representation of the rest of the play. A bunch of strawman arguments are presented, delivered by a conveniently stupid scientist who doesn't actually understand evolution -- probably because the author doesn't understand it -- so that the play's hero can strike these strawmen down with common "facts" of which the scientist is surprisingly ignorant and for which he surprisingly has no counter argument.

So let's look at some of the hollow arguments presented in this play.

1. Scientists' willful ignorance of Intelligent Design. This idea is just nonsense. Who is ignorant of intelligent design?

(Before I go further, I should point out that I think you accidentally posted in the wrong thread. I think you meant to post in the "Inherit Darwin" thread, as is indicated by the opening sentence of your post: "This post originated to announce the completion of my play which is a passage by passage mirror of Inherit the Wind." So I will act as though we are posting on that thread, and perhaps later we can copy-and-paste our posts over there.)

Several people on this thread actually work in the sciences, and at no point have we willfully refused to look at the supposed science behind Intelligent Design. To the contrary, we have repeatedly asked you to show us some of this science. The best you can do is to simply say, "Intelligent Design is science," or something to that effect. I have, in my posts on the "Inherit Darwin" thread, repeatedly referenced my post #61, where I ask a series of still-unanswered questions about the science behind ID. I would love to see some of the "scientific evidence" for ID, but you simply will not provide any. In my experience, this is characteristic of all debates between proponents of evolution and ID. And yet you have the audacity to, in your play, completely flip the situation and act as though ID proponents are just bursting at the seams with evidence and scientists are just plugging their ears and refusing to hear it.

2. The "evolution = Darwin" myth. Stop peddling this strawman. Science is not religion. Origin of Species is not the equivalent of the Bible; it is not a book held up as absolute, divine truth. Your prosecutor asks the scientist if he believes that everything in the book is true, and the scientist gives (although I don't know that this was your intent) a coy answer, and he's right to. No one believes that everything in Origin of Species is true. Darwin made some mistakes. It isn't that the last 150 years of evolutionary science were just attempts to validate the "sacred book." Rather, the last 150 years were a continuation of the process begun by that book, improving on and refining evolutionary theory. Many mistakes, surely, have been made along the way, as with any scientific pursuit, but many mistakes have also (through the scientific method) been discovered and corrected. If you're going to comb over Origin of Species for mistakes and act as though this somehow disproves all of evolutionary theory, don't waste your time. Scientists have been combing over Origin of Species (and all subsequent work) for mistakes for 150 years. That's how science works. That's how we build and improve our knowledge.

3. Fraudulent fossils. Of course there have been instances of dishonesty in paleontology, as there have been in all fields. But what does this prove? Does this invalidate all of paleontology, and, then, somehow, all of evolution? Of course not. Evolution is not built solely on the relatively few instances of fake or misinterpreted fossils. Finding a few instances of bad information does not invalidate the mounds and mounds of good information. There have been instances of fraud and deception throughout the history of religion, too. So what? Does the fact that there is a fraud of the Shroud of Turin prove that Jesus never lived? No. Does the fact that this "miracle" or that turns out to be a fraud prove that miracles never happen? No. All that these frauds prove is that these instances of fossils or miracles or whatever are frauds, and that conclusions based entirely on those frauds cannot be trusted. However, to my knowledge, there are no major aspects of evolutionary theory based on a single, fraudulent fossil. What makes evolution such a strong theory is that its principles are supported by many pieces of evidence in a variety of fields. Genetics backs up embryology, which backs up the fossil record, which backs up biogeography, and so on.

4. Archaeopteryx is "just a bird." The categories "bird," "dinosaur," "lizard," etc., are not preexisting categories that exist in nature and that humans have merely discovered. Rather, they are categories we have invented in order to organize our biological findings. If Archaeopteryx is "just a bird," it's because that's how we classify it. Of course, in many ways it has more in common with reptiles than with birds. For example, it has teeth; it has a long, bony tail with many vertebrae; it has multiple fingers with claws; it has a hyper-extensible claw on its second toe. It also lacks several characteristics of birds: its fingers are not fused; it has a small, cartilaginous sternum rather than a large, bony keel; it lacks uncinate processes, which are structures of ribs that somewhat join individual ribs together to stabilize them. It is in every way a transitional fossil between reptiles and birds.

Of course, you point to the fact that Archaeopteryx is not a direct ancestor of modern birds. This is almost certainly true, but is also irrelevant. Evolutionary theory does not propose a single, one-dimensional, linear progression from the first living thing to the "last" living thing (presumably humans, according to creationists). Rather, the theory proposes a two-dimensional, many-branching "tree." There are many branches and many nodes between these branches. Some of the these branches continue on to modern times; others are very short. At some point on this tree, there is a node at the junction of two branches, one of which leads to modern birds and the other of which leads to modern reptiles. However, along these two long branches are countless more nodes, some of which give rise to short branches.

The closer two species are to each other on this tree, whether or not they're on the same branch, the more similar they are likely to be. Species on either the bird or reptile branches that are close to the node between these branches will be similar to species just below the node, on the ancestor branch, and will also be similar to each other. We have determined that the Archaeopteryx branch is a shoot off of the main bird branch (i.e. Archaeopteryx is "just a bird.")

(Remember, Archaeopteryx is a genus. Birds belong in a variety of genera, which belong in a variety of families, which belong in a variety of orders, in the class Aves. So, each order is a branch off of the class branch; each family is a branch off of its order branch; each genus is a branch off of a family branch; each species is a branch off of its genus branch. So, throughout history, there have been species, genera, and probably even families of bird that died out with no modern direct descendants.)

So, we've determined that Archeopteryx best fits in the class Aves, and is therefore "just a bird." However, we've also determined, due to its incredible similarity to reptiles, that Archaeopteryx is very closely related to reptiles. That is, we've determined that the node giving rise to the Archaeopteryx branch is very close to the node that gave rise to the entire Aves branch (the bird branch). It is one of the first birds, and as such it still has a lot more in common with the common ancestors of birds and reptiles than it does with modern birds.

Think of it like this. Think about your family tree, extending back 100 generations. You probably look a lot more like your father than you do a random man on the street. Your father probably looks a lot like his father, and you probably resemble your grandfather a bit, too. Now, go back several generations. You might resemble, in some ways, your great great great great grandfather, but he probably looks more like his father (your great great great great great grandfather) than he does you. Your family tree is like the evolutionary tree; each generation is like a node, with each sibling having his/her own children and starting a new lineage, and with closely related people resembling each other more than distantly related people.

Now, go back 100 generations, to your great great (etc.) grandfather. We'll call him Bill. You probably don't resemble Bill all that much (it was a long time ago), but there are probably still some common characteristics. Maybe you both have dark hair, broad shoulders and pointy noses. Bill had two children, Bill Jr. and Bob. Bill Jr. is your great great (etc.) grandfather -- i.e. your direct ancestor -- and Bob is a great great (etc.) uncle. Bill Jr. and Bob probably both look pretty similar to Bill Sr., their father. Their children, Bill Sr.'s grandchildren -- Bill III and Bob Jr. -- probably also look a good bit like Bill Sr. Bill III and Bob Jr., who are first cousins, also probably look a good bit like each other, as they are still pretty closely related even though they're part of different lineages. And they probably look more like each other than you look like Bill Sr., because they are both more closely related to each other than you are to Bill Sr. Now, Bill III, who is your great great (etc.) grandfather, probably shares the same characteristics with you (dark hair, pointy nose, etc.) that you share with Bill Sr. However, Bob Jr., who isn't a direct ancestor of yours at all, might also share these characteristics with you, since he's so closely related to Bill Sr., his grandfather and your great great (etc.) grandfather.

[I've run out of room. To be continued...:]

message 9: by Dan (new)

Dan [continued:]

Now, if you had a bunch of family photos of the family tree, including many of the different branches from Bill Sr.'s various descendants, but with no dates, names, or context, you'd probably be hard pressed to put them in exactly the right order and structure. But you'd probably be able to tell that Bill Sr., Bill Jr., Bill III, Bob and Bob Jr. all belong in the range of 95-100 generations ago as ancestors of yours. And let's say you don't have pictures of every last relative. Furthermore, let's say you lack photos of Bill Sr., Bill Jr. and Bill III, but you do have photos of Bob and Bob Jr. Now, the Bobs aren't your direct ancestors, but they're so closely related to your direct ancestors that you could probably infer a lot about how Bill Sr., Bill Jr. and Bill III looked by looked by looking at pictures of Bob and Bob Jr. You could see that the Bobs both have dark hair, broad shoulders and pointy noses, just like you and your father, and could infer that the Bills probably also had these characteristics. You could also see that the Bobs have narrow eyes and large foreheads, whereas you and your father have small foreheads and wide eyes. You could probably infer, then, that somewhere along the line -- either with one of the first 3 Bills or with some of their immediate descendants -- your direct lineage developed the wide eyes and small foreheads.

In the same way, we are able to look at Archaeopteryx and learn things not only about members of that genus, but of their direct ancestors and close cousins.

5. We find "new species" but not "intermediates." The problem with this is that the "new species" we find are the intermediates. I made this point in a previous post, but I'll make it again, in case you don't understand it. Species do not exist in nature; they are categories that we have invented to make sense of the world. Every living thing will belong to some species, because that's the way we decide to classify them. We'll never find a fossil of an animal that doesn't belong to a species, because classifying living things into species is what we do. So if we find a transitional form between species A and species B that doesn't seem to belong to either of those species, we're not going to simply call it an intermediate, half A half B. We will call it that, certainly, if that's what it is, but we will also create a new species category for it. When a fossil is found and someone creates a new species category for it, this isn't a concession that this animal isn't a transitional form but is instead a "new species." It is just the case that every fossil found, if it does not belong to a pre-existing species, gets a new species created for it. But all of these new species are intermediates between their ancestors and their descendants.

6. The book is closed on evolution. The book is never closed on any scientific pursuit. We are constantly looking for new evidence, new information, to build on or modify existing theories, to perfect and perfect and perfect our understanding of the world. No one ever claims that our knowledge on any subject is complete, only that it is better than it used to be, but not as good as it will someday be. The supposed lack of curiosity you depict in your play is simply absent from the scientific world.

Meanwhile, as is becoming tradition, I'll refer you to post #61 in the Inherit Darwin thread and the questions I asked that you still haven't answered (or, at least, that you hadn't yet answered when I started this lengthy reply earlier today).

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 29, 2010 07:51PM) (new)

rgb wrote: "Only a teeny bit of elaboration, as I have to go advise entering freshmen in five minutes.

First, there is a broader spectrum of cognitive states associated with assigned truth-value-probability t..."

Make no mistake: this is a reply to Robert. Don, please confine your irrelevant posts to some other discussion wherein they are appropriate.

You know, Robert: I think most of the clashes you and I have had here have come over some insistence on particular definitions. In truth, I am not (and was not) happy with the definition of Faith that I gave you. I have not, however, come up with a satisfactory answer.

In fact, I shall use this space to invite you to my group, Evolution. A discussion was concluded there a few weeks ago, wherein I thoroughly propounded and tried to clarify my definition and classification of Faith. When I began this thread, I thought I would be comfortable propounding it all again; alas! no. If, however, you would prefer not to wade through the discussion or join the group, I shall post the more important points at your request.

My apologies, but it's a bit late for a dissertation on Faith that I undertook merely a month ago.

(In fact, if you don't wish to join or look, I found a post that may help outline my point of view.)

Logic and faith are not antitheses. It is a very fine distinction between faith and irrational belief, one that will be found far more readily in complex tomes on theology than in the Oxford (gotta love Oxford, though, eh?). In my posts, and my general theology, I give irrational or immovable belief the name Dogma. Faith is a word that I use to describe a particular psychological inevitability, one that it not necessarily religious. There are two types of faith, Logical Faith and Sperive Faith. I have made the names up, of course, because I can no longer recall the source whence I collected the ideas behind them.

Logical Faith: logical faith may also be called historical or vicarious faith. That is, I have faith that Australopithecus afarensis really did walk the Earth three million years ago. Likewise, a creationist must have historical faith that A. afarensis did not have any genetic relation to modern humans. This kind of faith is subject to logical and empirical revision.

Sperive Faith: sperive I took from the Latin word sperāre, 'to hope'. This kind of faith is not illogical or irrational, but alogical and aration: that is, it is neither provable nor deniable through logic. This kind of faith that conservative Christians have in the historicity of Genesis; it is also not the kind of faith that they hold in the impending doom of the world as outlined in ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΙΣ (one might think this, however, as that is not logically or empirically defensible, and the word hope usually implies some sort of anticipation). The kind of hopeful faith I describe here is without the bounds of logic and empirical evidence; that is, it is untouchable. The acts of God or the supernatural, as interpreted through physical evidence, is an example of logical faith, and therefore subject to probability: but the existence of God and the supernatural cannot be vindicated or judged false by any logical argument. But this faith is inescapable, as I see it: as I've said, even you need sperive, hopeful, faith when you say that God does not exist.

There is no reason to believe God exists, but there is also no logical reason not to believe in him, however vehemently the atheists say that theirs is the only logical and empirical path.

As I look back, I realise it is not perfect (I see at least one instance where I contradicted myself in later posts), but I'm sure you'll smell out imperfection, hunt me down, and we'll clear it up.

message 11: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Don wrote: "This post originated to announce the completion of my play which is a passage by passage mirror of Inherit the Wind. Here is part of a scene where the defense attorney, Nicole Duran (think Ann Cou..."

I'd add to that, but I really don't need to. Dan said it all. Seriously, could you insert more straw men into your "original play"?

Besides, I have just two words for you:

"radiometric dating"

To me -- and for what it's worth, I've actually read the theory proposed by the "intelligent design" advocates and it boils down to this:

"Evolution cannot produce complex structures."

That's it. End of story.

There is no proof that evolution cannot produce complex structures. There is proof that evolution can, and did, and does, and will continue to, produce complex structures and I mean proof outside of the fossil record. It is a simple matter of fact that evolution is quite capable of producing structures with so-called "irreducible complexity".

All the rest of the "theory" is irrelevant, and most of the honest sites that advocate it acknowledge the fact that they are Christian sites and that this is a "Christian theory", not a scientific one. It is an open invitation for applying all of the worst aspects of confirmation bias to the question.

Does the fossil record itself tell a story of design period, let alone "intelligent design"?

It does not. The bodies of animals and plants found in nature, including the human body, are rife with evolutionary leftovers.

For example, what is the point of wings on a flightless bird? What is the purpose of the human tailbone? Why can't we synthesize vitamin C (where most other animals can) -- we have the gene for it, but it is inactivated by a stupid evolutionary accident.

Why do blind fish have eyes? Why does the human eye have a blind spot in a front-to-back retina? Why does the human genome have five genes for beta-globin, with a sixth stuck in the middle that is broken, a pseudogene that doesn't do anything now but that once did make beta-globin? A perfect, intelligent designer wouldn't leave broken genes, pseudogenes, fossil DNA in the genetic mix (unless of course they were trying to lie, to disguise their own existence).

Oh, and interestingly, there are precisely two species of animals that have this same error -- that would be the chimpanzee and the gorilla.

Why is that, I wonder? Could it be that all three species, which also greatly resemble one another in many other ways, have a common ancestor?

IDiots are quick to trumpet the improbability of evolution producing complexity in spite of the evidence that it can and does. But somehow they never actually face the improbability that -- out of 2.9 billion base pairs, three different species would have the exact same mistakes encoded into their DNA.

There is an entire field called bioinformatics that is analyzing the information content of the genomes of basically every species on earth, as fast as it can get to them. Bioinformatics is basically recording the actual information content of all of this DNA.

The unmistakable signature of the random process that crafted us is there, for anybody to see who learns to look with their reason and the tools reason creates instead of with their confirmation bias prior conclusions that "God must have done it". This signature isn't in the perfection of our form (or our genome) but in its imperfection. It isn't the coincidence of the good parts, the DNA that does useful work alone -- that could be explained by an intelligent designer theory putting in good DNA to do good and necessary things.

But how do you explain all of the bad DNA, the "junk" DNA? How do you explain the remarkable coincidence of broken genes, pseudogenes, and whole stretches of that junk DNA, with an information theoretic distance between species that clearly follows not form -- similar form can be acquired many different ways -- but by their evolutionary pathway, pathways that are clearly evident in the radiometrically dated fossil record?

So, Don, your scarecrows don't frighten anyone into believing in your imaginary "intelligent designer" who hung around for four billion years causing a few gazillion species to appear, live a brief time, and then disappear -- but who aren't God because ID isn't a thinly disguised religious theory.

And seriously, what's with the "fossil factory in China" line? Are you mad?

Look, numb-nut. I personally have found fossils in the rock strata. I take my kids out to look for fossils. Fossils are ubiquitous. Mary Anning found fossils too, things like:


So just what is your point here? Are you trying to convince your brain-damaged readers that it is all a great Satanic Conspiracy, that these early fossils were created in secret Chinese factories and taken back in time machines and planted in the ground just to seduce devout Christians away from their faith? Did Chinese workers on the railroads sneak handmade fossils by the millions into this country and put them into the desert rocks all over the southwest? Is Tyrannosaurus Rex really just a Chinese version of Godzilla, bones whipped up and carefully buried with radioactive compounds by fiendish Chinese Satan Worshippers just so young children will be fascinated by an animal that never existed and Spielberg Studios (another Satanic Enterprise, clearly) would make a fortune?

However, I've come to the conclusion that you cannot be blamed for your refusal to look at anything like the actual evidence. You see, the human brain, like everything else on the planet, is continuing to evolve. That means that some work better, some work worse, and some don't work at all. The human fascination with religion and the ability of religious bias to trump reason is, I suspect, an evolutionary artifact of the bicameral brain that humans have, just as some humans have extra ribs, just as the path from the human testes to the penis leads up into the abdominal cavity, loops over the ureters, to descend back to a destination a centimeter or two away from where they entered the body -- a path that openly and stupidly invites trouble.

Anyway, here is a really, really interesting lesson you can take away from this. It is, as you yourself are fond of pointing out, quite clear that your play has an ancestor. Why? Because when one goes through it, one finds that there is a remarkable correspondence with the work you, um, "borrowed", or "plagiarized", or "stole" from -- whatever your favorite word is for lazy-author syndrome. In fact, if the original author wished to (say) sue you, you would immediately be asked to cease and desist publication by any court of law because you've violated pretty much all of the copyright laws in the country, and because it is obvious beyond any doubt that the two works are related, with the other work coming first.

The really, really amusing thing about this is that the process that the court would go through to deduce that your work is an evolutionary cousin to the previous work it copies from is exactly the process that your entirely derivative and copyright-violating work derides. It is precisely the sort of "detective work" that bioinformatics is working on now.

If you want to learn of just a couple of the many, many pieces of evidence found by modern genetics research that support evolution without intelligent design -- some amazing mistakes that make it absolutely clear that humans and various primates have common ancestors, you might look at:


Of course, I doubt that you are interested in this, but to quote your own rip-off of other people's words:

Aren't you the slightest bit curious?

Well? Aren't you?


message 12: by Don (new)

Don (donmilne) | 24 comments My mistake I posted this in the wrong thread. I did not notice that I was getting notices on this other thread. At no point did I use any of the same sentences as the original authors unless they are direct quotes from the Scopes trial. It is a mirror play to Inherit the Wind. The exercise is to switch out arguements for ID for those used for Evolution in the original play and stay in the format of the original.

message 13: by Robert (last edited Aug 29, 2010 11:06PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Logan wrote: "rgb wrote: "Only a teeny bit of elaboration, as I have to go advise entering freshmen in five minutes.

First, there is a broader spectrum of cognitive states associated with assigned truth-value-p..."

My primary objection is that you are making up terms to suit yourself with your logical faith and sperive faith, and that neither of them is a particularly accurate representation of the meaning of the word "faith" from an etomological point of view. Why not just use the dictionary?

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3. belief in god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.

7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

8. Christian Theology . the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.

9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.

You will note that the common theme in all of these definitions is belief without proof. What you call "logical faith" is just an oxymoron you made up so that you can claim that plausible scientific knowledge is a matter of faith, religious belief is a matter of faith, and (by omitting your homemade "logical" and "sperative" modifiers and all of your complex definitions) completely confuse those you hope to communicate with.

Why don't we use English as our language of communication, instead? In English, faith at least connotes, and generally (in context) denotes as well, belief without proof and nothing more. While one can say that I have "faith" that a penny, if released from my hand, will fall, it is a poor use of the term because in fact I am quite certain that it will fall. In fact, I take it for granted that it will fall -- ordinarily it would never occur to either one of us to seriously entertain doubts on the matter, and if I flip a coin I immediately look to the floor, not the ceiling, to see the outcome of the flip.

So what you call "sperative faith" is, in fact, the proper definition of faith -- belief without any sort of evidence or basis. You advance this sort of wishful thinking faith (where sperative faith is pretty much a synonym for "wishful thinking", please note) as if it were a virtue.

How, exactly, is your so-called sperative faith virtuous? If I were to judge in court on the basis of faith there is no limit to the injustice I could cause. I have faith that this man is innocent, this one guilty. Free the one, hang the other. Who needs evidence?

Were I to participate in everyday life and commerce on the basis of faith, I'd soon be penniless. If I invest in a company without good reason, who can be surprised if it goes bankrupt? If I plant my crops in the fall because I have faith that the winter will be warm who will feel sympathy for my starvation when the winter turns out to be just like all the other winters of human experience and cold? If I refuse to have my cancer treated in practical ways because I have faith that God will heal it then who would be surprised when I die horribly of the disease?

Were I to use faith to play cards, or gamble on the horses, or place a bet in roulette, I'd end up broke (and would deserve it!). No amount of faith turns a non-zero-sum game into a zero-sum game, and both logic and reason suffice to prove this to me, even though of course evidence may exist of my winning any given game at any given try. Evidence alone isn't enough to erase the "wishful thinking" aspect of faith -- one sometimes needs mathematics as well.

In fact, if one goes through human affairs, I think that you'll find that wishful thinking is one of the banes of human existence. It is the very essence of the irrational, of the lack of judgement, of madness. It is a demon in metaphysical form, always ready to take root in the gullible or greedy human mind and seduce it away from the virtue of believing things for good reasons, believing things on the basis of evidence, broad knowledge, and common sense.

It is because of the many evil meanings and uses of faith that I object to your attempted co-opting of the word to somehow describe faith's opposite -- believing things with proof, with evidence, with good reason, the kind of belief that can start out small but grow from experience and wise contemplation to become large, to approach the limit of certainty without (unwisely) seeking to grasp that limit. We do not have "faith" in the vast bulk of human knowledge (even though yes, the idiom permits us to make this sentence) -- the idiom carries with it the connotation, however fleeting, that we are somehow being blindly trustful in its truth instead of believing it with our eyes open, for excellent and entirely defensible reasons. It reduces the scientist, the philosopher, the mathematician to a par with the mere mystic, with the alchemist, with the priest mumbling an ancient chant in words he doesn't even understand in the faith that by so doing he is materially affecting the Universe in some unprovable way. And this cheap linguistic legerdemain not only is not valid or defensible, it is repugnant. There is no resemblance between the faith of a druid that there are powerful spirits bound up in an oak tree, the faith of a Christian that they will be transported on death to an eternal paradise (while scientists and philosophers in general will be tortured for that same eternity while they look down from their "heaven" and jeer), the faith that one will be reborn over and over again until one is eventually rejoined with God, and the state of belief of a philosopher in the network of evidence-supported assertions that we call "human knowledge".

With all of that said (and it needed to be said), I have no objection to your use of the term faith in one precise context in scientific discourse. All human knowledge is based upon axioms, and those axioms are assertions that by definition cannot be proven -- in fact, some of them are axioms that establish (for example) the basis for logical or inferential proof. It is therefore safe to say that I have "faith" in them.

Even in this context it is dangerous to say that my belief in them is without reason, however. These axioms are self-consistent -- it is better to believe them than not believe them because they work and enable one to build a self-consistent worldview with its related ontology and semantics that seems congruent in certain essential ways with our sensory streams. To put it bluntly, believing in them is sane, and rejecting them is insane.

My final remark is your assertion that:

But this faith is inescapable, as I see it: as I've said, even you need sperive, hopeful, faith when you say that God does not exist.

There is no reason to believe God exists, but there is also no logical reason not to believe in him, however vehemently the atheists say that theirs is the only logical and empirical path.

First of all, I'm assuming that this was block copied from elsewhere -- I have never said that God does not exist on this or any other thread. A correct statement of my personal degree of belief in God-linked assertions is:

a) There is no reason to believe that God exists visible in the world, for any standard model of God, specifically any model for an omnibeneficent God. To put it in your language, there is no logical empirical reason to believe in God. That isn't the same as stating the truth of a negative, it is refusing to ascribe an enormous, undeserved, degree of belief to a positive that is unsupported by evidence. I have no reason to believe in fairies, either -- but I refrain from stating that they don't exist, only that I have no good reason to seriously entertain the hypothesis that they do.

b) The evidence of the Universe itself -- the mere existence of something that is not nothing (where the latter seems far simpler) is sufficient reason to seriously consider the possibility of God. It is easy to show that the only way God can exist (and have a reasonable subset of standard model properties) is if God is the Universe. Only if there is an identity between God and Universe is it information-theoretically possible for God to precisely encode Itself and achieve omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence (all of which reduce to stating that God must have zero entropy).

c) If the Universe is a closed system with zero entropy, then it is difficult to imagine it being "sentient" in any meaningful or useful sense of the term, and I think a simple line to draw is that a non-sentient Universe may be vast, grand, complex, etc but it isn't God and so if the Universe is not sentient there is no God.

d) There is some evidence that the Universe is sentient. Certainly it is no less sentient than I am. Sentience seems to involve the experience of time through entropy and is an emergent self-organized phenomenon. The Universe has highly complex informational linkage and may be so vast -- even infinite -- that there is always at least relative entropy in abundance in a scalable sense. I am not prepared to assert that the Universe is not self-aware in a meaningful sense of the term, and think that it is not implausible that in fact it is self-aware, with a self-awareness not less than my own awareness of my self and the rest of the Universe. I am only one, but (just as is the case with the integers) it is not easy for me to assert any really defensible upper bound, given the single integer 1.

With all of that established, your final statement is still categorically incorrect. In fact, it is self contradictory. You begin by stating that there is no reason to believe that God exists. Then you assert that there is no reason to believe that God does not exist, as if these are two sides of a binary coin.

They are not, and you misstate the position of the rationalist. The fact that there is no reason to think that God exists is the reason to think that God probably doesn't exist.

Again, if you speak of fairies it is very clear. There is no good reason to think that fairies exist. This is, actually, a pretty good reason to think that fairies do not in fact exist. It isn't certain (either way) but on the whole, the evidence suggests that fairies (if they exist) are invisible, indetectable, and/or rare. If you encounter a grown adult human who seriously believes in fairies even though they cannot offer you any reason, even a bad reason, why they should, you feel pity for them because they are batshit crazy. You aren't certain that fairies don't exist, but you think it very, very likely that they don't because the only evidence for their existence are myths and fables and stories, not actual fairies.

So yes, there is only one "logical and empirical path" regarding fairies; why exactly do you think that there is more than one for God?

In particular, do you seriously believe that any proposition, no matter what, that can be expressed in binary has a 50-50 chance of being true no matter what the evidence is?


message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Don wrote: "My mistake I posted this in the wrong thread. I did not notice that I was getting notices on this other thread. At no point did I use any of the same sentences as the original authors unless they..."

I'm not really concerned about "the exercise". I'm concerned about just one thing. Aside from the strawfest, did you even for a minute think about following the link and reading?

Of course not.

Aren't you the slightest bit curious?

I guess not.


message 15: by Don (new)

Don (donmilne) | 24 comments Sorry, my work and family commitments leave limited time for leisurely pursuits. I don't have time to spend on studying secular humanist views. In the end we can't both be right, but only one of us could be surprised. If you are right, when I die I won't know it because my existance is terminated. If I am right, you're post-death existance is going to need some new theory in order to continue a denial of a Creator and his plan for mankind.

message 16: by Robert (last edited Aug 30, 2010 10:14PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Don wrote: "Sorry, my work and family commitments leave limited time for leisurely pursuits. I don't have time to spend on studying secular humanist views. In the end we can't both be right, but only one of..."

Oh, piffle. You have the ample leisure time to write a pocket full of lies, and are too busy to even look at the evidence that they are lies. Very intellectually honest, I commend you -- Not.

But at least you've shown your true colors -- you aren't an advocate for "intelligent design" as a scientific hypothesis any more than any of the other advocates are. You don't give a damn about evidence, or science. You simply want to believe the myth you were brainwashed with as a child, and will engage in any degree of intellectual fraud and deception in order to support it. You will lie to anybody, but especially you lie to yourself.

And I'll even bet that you aren't just any old believer in a Creator; you believe in a just, benevolent Creator who created a lying, deceptive universe that just happens to look like it is fourteen billion or so years old, who planted all of these lying fossils in the ground (or was that the Evil Satanic Chinese?) just so It could reward anyone who could cleverly see through all of the lies to the truth of just one particular Bronze Age document (of many) produced by superstitious and ignorant desert tribesmen in a brutal and repulsive culture, and so that it could torture for an eternity all of those who "denied" the obvious truth of this book because they were taken in by all of that damn evidence.

You know, the strangely extortionate Creator? The one that leaves Its followers -- like yourself -- absolutely incapable of having a rational discussion without resorting to a hidden, snide, threat?

I mean, who cares about anything like the truth? That's not important. All that matters is that we minimize our risk of being tortured for eternity in the event that God turns out to be the homocidal evil maniac It is portrayed to be in the Old and New testaments.

In the meantime, there is no limit to the damage you will do with your deliberate lies, for anyone who makes statements without knowing, really, if they are true or false and who refuses to look at the evidence to make a sane and rational judgement is a consummately cowardly sort of liar. So by all means, avoid studying "secular humanist views" like mathematics, science, history, philosophy, psychology -- in fact, avoid knowledge like the plague! Knowledge, as I'm sure you are well aware, is the worst kind of poison to the kind of deliberate self-selected ignorance you have decided to preserve in yourself. Only if you keep your blinders tightly on can you possibly continue to pretend that you are a respectable person and that your mistakes (if you are mistaken) are "honest" ones.

Let me help you. They're not. As both your actions and your words now clearly reveal.


message 17: by Dan (last edited Aug 30, 2010 11:28PM) (new)

Dan I don't have time to spend on studying secular humanist views.

Evolution is not a "secular humanist view" any more than physics is. Evolution is not a philosophy of life any more than gravity is. It is simply a branch of science, a field of study. It is simply a subset of the body of human knowledge.

In the end we can't both be right, but only one of us could be surprised.

What if it turns out that when we die, we both go to Hades because it turns out the Greeks were right? I bet we'd both be surprised then, huh?

You hint here at one of the basic problems of Intelligent Design (as well as much religious thought): it is based on a false dichotomy, which is a logical fallacy. The false dichotomy proposed is that either evolution is true, or the Christian creation myth is true. That's it, no other possibilities. This is, of course, nonsense. There are countless other possibilities. If I learn that your favorite flavor of ice cream is not chocolate, I haven't just proved that it is pistachio. There are a lot of flavors out there.

Of the ID substance that I've seen (elsewhere, since you refuse to provide any), there isn't a single bit of positive evidence for creation; there is simply (dishonest) negative evidence against evolution. Creationists think that if they can disprove evolution, that somehow, by default, proves creation true. This is simply not true.

To see why, just imagine the opposite. If we proved creation to be not true, would this be enough to prove evolution by natural selection? Of course not. One needs only know a bit of chemistry or geology to know the Earth isn't 6,000 years old. This disproves Genesis, but does not alone prove evolution. One needs only a rudimentary understanding of photosynthesis to know that plants and the sun could not have been created in the order they supposedly were in Genesis. This disproves Genesis but does not prove evolution. One needs only the vaguest knowledge of the space program to know that there is no such thing as a "firmament." This disproves Genesis, but does not prove evolution. So it's a good thing the theory of evolution is built on more than a few swipes at a competing idea. So, again, if you've got positive evidence for creation by a single, omnipotent, benevolent god who briefly took human form and turned water to wine, then let's have it. But if all you've got is a false dichotomy, then perhaps you should go back to school. I believe logic is covered in tenth grade math.

message 18: by Don (new)

Don (donmilne) | 24 comments You guys have a lot more time than I do. Bashing Christians must be a form of entertainment in order for you to spend the time doing it. Or maybe you have evoled more and type much faster than me.

I do know logic, but we start from a different base. I start from the point, "If God then . . ." You start from the point, "If not God then . . ." These two view points are not going to find resolution. They cannot both be right. Excluding Bible literalists, there are many Christians that do not have a problem with science - it is not exclusively the result of secularists. There is no better example than Isaac Newton. IDer's though recognize God's hand in creation.

message 19: by Robert (last edited Aug 31, 2010 11:49PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Don wrote: "You guys have a lot more time than I do. Bashing Christians must be a form of entertainment in order for you to spend the time doing it. Or maybe you have evoled more and type much faster than me..."

Bashing "Christians" is by no means the point, although that's a great card to play to avoid it. I personally am bashing you personally, for writing a "play" that presents a deliberately misleading and false picture of evolution, for being a willful liar. I am further bashing you for being "too busy" to actually learn any of the actual evidence for evolution lest you be forced to confront the fact of your lies.

You are also mistaken about where we start from. Speaking for myself, I start from the point of view of "Perhaps God..." I'm perfectly happy to entertain the possibility, just as I'm perfectly happy to consider the issue of whether or not gravity is real, whether unicorns exist, whether it is true or not that the moon is made of green cheese, whether or not evolution is a plausible theory.

The "different base" that we start from is that you start with the answers to all of these questions firmly in mind, and then don't bother to look at the actual data. It simply doesn't matter to you if evolution is right or wrong (or if God exists or doesn't exist) in reality. All that matters is that your fantasy not be disturbed with actual facts.

If you do "know logic", then perhaps you've heard of things like:

* Confirmation bias, abundant in your arguments. Since God (you are a priori certain) exists and a particular set of God-linked myths aren't myths but are true because somebody once told you that they were true, you see God's hand -- interpreted in your own personal way -- in creation. The human eye was clearly hand-drawn and designed by God, and couldn't have arisen by blind chance, because if it could then it wouldn't be evidence of God's design and for some reason, even though you began with the conclusion that God exists, you want to claim that there is evidence for his existence even if you have to make it up on the spot.

b) Begging the question (circular reasoning). God exists and was the creator of all things, so all things are evidence that God exists and was the creator of all things, so all things are evidence that God exists and was the creator of all things...

So where, exactly, is there anything approximating reason in here? Your problem is that while you are quite right that God cannot both exist and not exist, existence is a property in reality, not in your mind. If you really want to consider the question of whether or not God exists, you cannot look at the evidence already having made your mind up about the answer.

* Straw men. Your play could furnish the material for a hundred scarecrows. Who cares what the modern theory of evolution says or what the evidence actually is? You simply put lies and feeble arguments in the mouth of your literary straw man and then use that razor sharp wit of your female lawyer to pummel the helpless figure. You even focus the play on Darwinism, as if a hundred and fifty year old book is modern science! You have plenty of time to write all of that, so I find myself skeptical that you are really all that time bound.

But hey, I suggest that you look at some of the actual evidence from DNA and you're suddenly "too busy". Of course you are. You're simply worn out from the "effort" of stuffing straw into old shirts, pasting the word "Darwin" on them, and using them as Charlie McCarthy dolls to parrot your silly imaginary "theory of evolution" while you "prove" that there are no transitional species (false), you "prove" that somebody once did an evolution-linked scam and that therefore all evidence for evolution is clearly false and indeed a plot by the Evil Chinese, and that (non-sequitor indeed) that this somehow acts as positive evidence that all those abrupt transitions in the fossil record must have been put there by a divine creator.

Excuse me?

* Appeal to authority. Obviously you consider the Bible, or some aspects of Biblical theism, to be authoritative truth, in spite of the fact that the Bible is chock full of absurdity, contradiction, and moral evil. Presumably you are clever enough to ferret out only the good true parts and not the bad ones. You create a fictitious "book" that is supposedly some sort of "authority" on intelligent design, or religious design, or "creation", or whatever you think happened and then imply that the Darwin loving straw man you create can't actually answer any of the questions therein because he's too scared to read it, he might discover that it is true after all. You even use appeal to authority backwards, by pretending that Darwin's Origin of Species is an authoritative statement of modern evolutionary science (so that if it is disproven, one doesn't have to look at evidence any more, the authority is discredited and that's enough for you and your logically crippled audience.

* Fallacy of False Cause. Too many instances to even review. Some Christians don't have a problem with science, and some science was even invented by Christians, therefore the existence of science proves that God created species. Riiiiight.

Quite outside of logical fallacies, you completely misunderstand the nature and purpose of reason and the importance of evidence. Your entire reasoning process is inverted, with conclusion before argument or evidence.

Seriously, you can do better than this. Imagine that you are in a court room. It is your responsibility in a court to do your best to assess the arguments and evidence. You would, quite rightly, revile anyone who condemned a man to death on hearsay. You would be especially harsh on someone who marched into the courtroom saying "I think the defendant is guilty and I plan to see him hang" before hearing the evidence and arguments. If you sat on a jury with a matter of life and death before you, and one of the jury members started snoring, their mind made up, ignoring the parade of witnesses, wouldn't you be furious? Wouldn't you report him to the judge, lest an innocent man be more or less murdered by his deliberate refusal to reason?

Well, as I'm sure you would agree, the question of evolution versus creation is perhaps even more important than a jury trial for murder. And I, your fellow juror, am furious with you for not only refusing to hear the actual arguments but for turning to other jurors and whispering "Don't bother listening, we all know he's a guilty son of a bitch, look at those shifty eyes".

You don't need to hear the arguments. You came into the court room convinced that you already knew all of the answers, and you won't let a little thing like evidence, or eyewitness testimony change your mind.

Hearsay is much better. Especially when it is 2000 year old hearsay, 3000 year old hearsay, where the witnesses report fantastic and unbelievable things, but they're all safely dead, unable to be cross-examined. And besides, they are authoritative, inspired by the Holy Spirit so that they speak only Perfect Truth. It says so right here on the cereal box.

Wake up, man! If you have time to read whole books and copy them into an "original work", you have time to be a good juror and actually look at the real evidence with an open mind, a mind that has not already concluded either God exists or God doesn't exist.

A question that is, by the way, completely distinct from the question of whether or not evolution is a correct theory. You know, that fallacy of false cause again.

It is entirely possible for God to exist and yet for evolution to be the precise, literal truth. It is even possible for space aliens to have intelligently intervened in evolution and for God not to exist. If you make a little table:

Evolution and God | Evolution and Not God
Not Evolution and God | Not Evolution and Not God

then every box is possibly true -- there is no inherent logical contradiction between Evolution and God or inherent truth in Not Evolution and God.

So perhaps you might want to study logic again, this time paying attention to fallacies of reason and the logical process.


message 20: by Nathan (new)

Nathan I start from the point, "If God then . . ."

Bullshit. You starts from the point "Since I know there is a God, then..." That isn't logic. That is classic confirmation bias.

message 21: by Chris (new)

Chris | 21 comments Don wrote: "I do know logic, but we start from a different base. I start from the point, "If God then . . ." "

Wow.... and you are home schooling?

If you were truly logical you would start from "We don't know" then start looking at the evidence. But evidence scares you. The fact that your entire Theistic belief rests on a book written by humans who new nothing of the world we lived in and you start from that position is very sad indeed.

Interestingly thats the same position the Muslim father takes, he just substitutes a different book. So I guess his form of *logic* works well too then?

The religious mind truly frightens me and I fear our species is never going to out grow it.

message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Worried that their son was too optimistic, his parents took him to see a psychiatrist. To try to show him that life isn't always a bed of roses the psychiatrist led him to a stark room containing old bones, broken toys, and crumpled black and white photographs all buried in an enormous pile of dried cow dung.

Instead of his spirits being dampened, the little boy climbed to the top of the pile and, with his face lit up with expectation began to dig, flinging rat skulls, naked Barbie torsos, and handfuls of excrement aside with abandon.

"What are you doing?" asked the psychiatrist. "You're ruining your clothes and all of the toys are broken!"

"With all of this manure," replied the beaming boy, "there's got to be a unicorn around somewhere!"

The creationist/ID argument in a nutshell. Start in a state of glowing optimism (we live in the best of all possible worlds, created just for us by a loving God), add in a bit of myth (unicorns, as animals mentioned in the infallible Bible, really exist), mix well with ignorance (the inability to tell the difference between cow manure and horse/unicorn manure), and don't forget the little mental blinders that keep you from having the faintest clue as to why you are really there, what the purpose of the whole exercise with its broken dolls and crumpled dreams is... and the entire experience becomes "evidence".

And the really sad thing is that the psychiatrist can stand there all day and explain these things one at a time to the little boy and it won't make a damn bit of difference. He knows there is a unicorn in there somewhere, so the manure must be unicorn manure. He is literally incapable of looking at reality without his distorted cognitive filter.

Wishful thinking, magical thinking of this particular sort is the very bane of human existence. It is responsible for countless deaths every day. It is the direct cause of enormous amounts of human suffering. It is perhaps the primary reason that the human race cannot and will not get its act together to do something about poverty and war.

There's a unicorn in there somewhere, and if you don't believe in him he'll one day run you through with his pointy little horn and trample your bleeding corpse while giving rides and unicorn-kisses to all of the little boys that faithfully believed in him on the basis of a mound of cow flop.


message 23: by Dan (new)

Dan It never ceases to amaze me the number of points that can be raised that a creationist will ignore, the number of questions that will be asked that a creationist will refuse to answer.

message 24: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Like I said:

a) They can't answer. In fact, they cannot permit themselves to think about them at all. Their prime axiom is "my beliefs are correct no matter what", and so it is a theorem of that axiom that any "facts" in the real world that appear to conflict with that are lies, errors, deception, fraud, mysteries that we don't understand yet and not facts at all. They would rather postulate, and conclude, that the laws of physics have changed in fantastic ways so that they Universe looks far older than it is (because the age estimated from Genesis is correct) rather than examine the actual evidence.

b) They can't help themselves. Seriously, I know longer think that this is a volitional choice on their part. I think that their brains are permanently altered in certain ways by the washing they receive when they are in the range of 1 to 8 or 9 years of age. The brain is basically dynamically wiring during all of this period, and I think that certain core aspects of "religious faith" get hard-wired in so that (depending on their overall brain balance and particular neurochemistry) they literally can't invert their thinking on the issue of their birth mythology.

Sure, some humans remain plastic -- especially ones that are exposed to a rich and open environment when they are young and who remain capable of learning and expanding their knowledge when they are older -- but lots of humans just don't. They become mental robots that act out the same old programming, unaffected by anything as ephemeral as interaction with the real world, at least unless and until it reaches out and smacks them in the face (if their social group collapses, for example, if a life experience is so overwhelming that it forces them to rebuild their birth-installed worldview).

This is something that I think it is very important for humans to understand, even though I'm certain it is anathema to even suggest the hypothesis in e.g. neuropsychology research. It's too "politically incorrect" even today to suggest that the aversion to reason exhibited by the religiously brainwashed brain is the result of permanent damage to the minds of children exposed to religious ideas as if they are unquestionable truth at a young and vulnerable age where their social and familial happiness and acceptance completely depend on deep compliance.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Don wrote: "You guys have a lot more time than I do. Bashing Christians must be a form of entertainment in order for you to spend the time doing it. Or maybe you have evoled more and type much faster than me..."

I'll have you know, Don, that I don't do any of the things you've accused the unclear 'you guys' of. Nor do I think any of us does (or, at least, the great majority of us). Personally, Don, I think your play has caused an indignant stir. I have not read it, but I feel, from what I've read of others' posts, that it's probably misguided. The point of Inherit the Wind was not that God is wrong and Evolution is right. The point was that the religious should not feel intimidated by the loss of their influence over what is taught or believed as science: that, if religious people are serious about their God, the creator of the world, they will recognise that the evolution of animals takes nothing away from God's power. The play is a bit ham-fisted, and I don't enjoy it as much as I used to, but it is certainly not anti-Christian, pro-Darwin propaganda.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

rgb wrote: "Logan wrote: "rgb wrote: "Only a teeny bit of elaboration, as I have to go advise entering freshmen in five minutes.

First, there is a broader spectrum of cognitive states associated with assigned..."

rgb wrote: "Don wrote: "You guys have a lot more time than I do. Bashing Christians must be a form of entertainment in order for you to spend the time doing it. Or maybe you have evoled more and type much fa..."

Once again, Robert, I meant to get back sooner.

I do have an answer, and believe it is reasonable, but of course I would, it being my answer. I have made up terms in an attempt, in fact, to avoid applying existing terms and causing overlap between uses. Sperive and Logical Faith were not terms already used to represent phenomena I felt I needed to address. I do hold that people must operate within such modes of thought as I have outlined with these terms. I understood the illogic of the name 'Logical Faith' when I invented it, but I did not feel it necessary to address it unless someone objected.

The premise of this thread (which, incidentally, was copied from another group, as I said) was, in fact, my way of addressing someone's assertion that Evolution does use faith, in the same way that Religion does. My use of the word 'faith' was to find common ground, but leave the terms separate. The point I was illustrating was that a scientist has no use for the same faith in a fact that a Christian needs in God's existence.

Why do I do this constantly?

I must say, Robert, it must be my love of philosophy, wherein many define words separately from colloquial usage. I also never expect to get so much objection to it (though I should now from you, eh?). It's just my way of having fun further defining humanity, and I apologise for all the times you've had to take me down. I'm not attempting to be contrary, or redefine words for the common people, or say that biologists need the same kind of faith in Australopithecus's bipedality as Hindus need in Brahma's power.

I would, however, assert that every person needs faith (in whatever religious definition you choose) to denounce a god, just as he needs faith to believe in a god. As far as I'm concerned, this is a logical jump: if I need to believe in order to confirm the existence of something for myself, I should need belief to tell myself that that something does not exist.

Also, I don't think chance has to do with it in all cases. In terms of a religious proposition, the lack of evidence can be part of the assertion.

The point of my 'Logical Faith' was to show that certain kinds of god or religion can be disproved, if this religion depends upon fact as defence. If Yahweh's existence depends upon whether or not the Red Sea was parted, or whether the Flood ever happened, then we have sufficient proof to claim that Yahweh does not exist. If, however, Yahweh's existence depends purely upon whether he created the world (the Jews, of course, do not believe this, mostly), then we can not answer that question with any form of scientific enquiry. 'Logical Faith' and 'Sperive Faith' were simply ways of showing the difference (and I do not intend them to replace any existing terms or words. The point of my post was not these terms, but what I was attempting to illustrate with them).

message 27: by Don (new)

Don (donmilne) | 24 comments This ought to be good for some more wailing and gnashihg . . . O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the ccounsels of God.

message 28: by Hp (new)

Hp | 26 comments Don wrote: "This ought to be good for some more wailing and gnashihg"

And what is the point of quoting (badly - I love "gnashihg" ) some drivel from a "jewish gold plate" found in the Americas by a known fraudster? Don't say you actually believe that someone talked to angels and translated gold plates now magically removed from this Earth. Oh dear.

I think rgb's introduction of the bicameral mind applies to you as well as good old Mr Smith.

message 29: by Nathan (new)

Nathan This ought to be good for some more wailing and gnashihg . .

One can find quotes to support any position.

"All thinking men are atheists."

Did I prove anything with that quote? No. Did you prove anything with yours? No. So what was your point?

message 30: by Dan (last edited Sep 02, 2010 02:05PM) (new)

Dan their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not

You're right, we do not profiteth from our secular wisdom. The field of biology, of which evolution is a major pillar, perhaps the major pillar, has contributed nothing to society. Certainly not medicine and treatments for disease and injury. Certainly not increased crop yields. And other branches of science are no better. What has physics or chemistry or engineering ever done for us? Do we have high-speed modes of transportation through land, air and sea? Do we have sophisticated, globe-spanning communications systems? Do we have lifesaving sewage treatment systems? No. No, we do not, because we rely on the sciences and so have failed to develop these potentially revolutionary technologies. It should be obvious to anyone sitting in his air-conditioned home, wearing his sweat-wicking, antimicrobial synthetic fabrics, immunized from the diseases hovering in the air, tapping away on a magazine-sized computer connecting through thin air to a globe-spanning invisible network that, obviously, all the secular so-called wisdom the sciences claim to hold hasn't improved our lives one whit. Obviously.

message 31: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
Dan wrote: "their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not

You're right, we do not profiteth from our secular wisdom. The field of biology, of which evolution is a major pillar, perhaps the major pill..."

Not to mention that the semantic content of Don's reply is:

"If you don't believe in God exactly the way my favorite work of fiction describes It, you're a poopy-head and you're gonna get it one day..."

Right. Or perhaps it is "God hates smart people, and only plans to save the stupid."

Gosh, that makes perfect sense, doesn't it?


message 32: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 192 comments Mod
I would, however, assert that every person needs faith (in whatever religious definition you choose) to denounce a god, just as he needs faith to believe in a god. As far as I'm concerned, this is a logical jump: if I need to believe in order to confirm the existence of something for myself, I should need belief to tell myself that that something does not exist.

And I think that this is simply incorrect. I agree that it is possible to "denounce a god" on the basis of faith unsupported by evidence just as it is possible to "announce a god" on the same basis. However, in point of fact most people do not "denounce gods" on this basis. Remember, every Christian "denounces Brahma", every Hindu "denounces Odin", every Muslim denounces pretty much every God but Allah. Religious people do denounce gods at least partly on the basis of faith, but it is faith in the god they announce combined with the good old law of excluded middle in logic, and the rest of the denouncing is sheer common sense and evidence.

Non-religious people just don't denounce gods that way. They don't state that it is impossible for any given god to exist, only that it is absurdly improbable, given the evidence and the enormous number of choices.

Let's work through this, shall we? Suppose that in the history of humanity there have been some 999 mututally exclusive deities announced on the basis of faith and theistic scripture or holy tradition. Let us suppose that you are a space alien who has landed on earth and wishes to sort out this mess (there is a lovely novel by IIRC Sherri S. Tepper for which this is the actual theme, BTW, -- can't remember which one but I can look it up if you like).

Initially you have 1000 choices -- one choice is always "none of the above", clearly. If you use the principle of maximum entropy to assign a probability that one of these choices is correct (the best you can do in the absence of any evidence at all) then there is a 1 in a 1000 chance, give or take, that any particular God is in fact real, true, correct. So the rational space alien begins from a position of natural skepticism. It is enormously open-minded -- it can't bring itself to consider any of the choices instantly rejectable because of its belief or lack thereof in a deity of its own, it just wants to know the truth -- but the truth is it has "no idea" if any of these claimed deities are real, and because there are so very many of them, all claimed equally vehemently by their followers it has no obvious reason to prefer one over another.

Being a good scientist, however, the alien immediately sets out to conduct experiments. All of the various religions claim that their deity intervenes on the behalf of the religion's practitioners, in real-time, on the basis of their piety, devotion, and prayer. Some require you to sacrifice certain animals and burn their body parts or wave them at the sky. Others require you to make a pronouncement of faith and pray with several others for a favor. Still others require the intervention of a well-bribed -- I mean "tithed" priest. But all of them claim that if one asks in just the right way, miracles will happen as evidence of their particular God's existence, and they all make roughly equal (but unverifiable) claims for such miracles in the distant past.

The alien then sets out to test the claims. It sacrifices truckloads of sheep and turtledoves to no end. It prays to Jesus, to Allah, to Odin, to Thor, to Jupiter, to Athena, to various African deities, to the Great Spirit, to Krishna, to Indra, to Jehovah. In each case it prays for the same thing -- let's say "the spontaneous cure of every case of HIV planetwide" and in its prayer it follows all of the prescribed rituals (in fact, being thorough, all of the VARIANTS of those rituals) and records the outcome.

Every time it gets a null result, what does it do, not on the basis of faith but on the basis of common sense? It reduces its degree of belief in the deity in question. It sought evidence and failed to find it even though the religious dogma promised (more or less) that it would. So the only sensible thing to do is to consider it somewhat less likely that that particular religion is correct.

Given excluded middle, as it decreases its degree of belief in deity 1, it must increase its degree of belief in all of the rest of the mutually exclusive and exhaustive possibilities. As it works its way through the 999, however, the only possibility that always gets raised in plausibility is "none of the above" -- all of the rest go down from their initial value of p = 0.001.

After a few days, months, years of this sort of experimentation with no evidence to support the existence of any of the named gods, the space alien arrives at the following state of belief. It considers the assertion that Jesus is Lord absurdly unlikely because Jesus didn't cure the world of HIV and yet claimed in scripture the ability to move mountains and raise the dead on request, not just for himself but for his followers (several of whom are recorded as healing the sick, cursing unto death, raising from the dead, and so on). If prayer in fact is capable of getting Jesus to cure HIV the alien never was able to observe it. p_Jesus has gone down to perhaps 0.00000001, maybe even less. It hardly matters -- once it is much less than one in a million, most people with any sense just smooth it out to "probably not".

Ditto for all of the rest. On the other hand, the "none of the above" category has had its probability raised to 1 - the sum of the probabilities for all of the other gods put together. Call it 0.9999 or thereabouts -- close enough that the alien would say that it is almost certain that none of the proposed Gods are correct.

The alien does not denounce any of these Gods -- only points out that it is absurdly improbable that they are in fact correct, that they in fact exist in the real world, because the claims that are made by their religious definitions are not borne out by experience.

Note well that in this process nothing like the use of faith in the affirmative evidence-free form ever occurs!

Note also that this is the bulk of the reasoning process used by the Christian to reject Hinduism. The Christian is a natural born skeptic, perfectly capable of understanding the absurdity of the miracle claims for Krishna, perfectly happy to set up skeptical tests for Hinduism (that the religion fails, of course). No, Hindu yogis can't fly, they can only bounce around under the influence of gravity. No, they can't heal themselves or others of illness. No, they can't die and resurrect themselves -- every "miracle" that they can perform can be explained by natural means. So the Christian reject Hinduism as probably false using reason.

Reason that -- probably because of the bicameral thing and the way they were raised -- they are incapable of applying to their own religion. They don't denounce Krishna using faith, but they do announce Christ using only faith of the evidence-free sort.

Do you understand?


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